The Significance Of The Tower Of Babel.
Genesis 11: 1 – 9; Deuteronomy 32: 8 – 9.
Quite apart from being a record of the dispersal of humanity across the world, the account of the Tower of Babel also focused on the decisive creation of human languages by Yahweh as He scattered man when they chose to rebel against Him (Gen 1:1-11). A further clarification by Moses, as he rehearsed pertinent historical details to the assembly of Israel, just prior to his death, shines some light on this episode; where diverse ethnic groups came into being, with each nation having their borders assigned to them by God, except for His chosen people, the Israelites; ‘for the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance shall be God’s very own inheritance’ (neither ‘Jacob’ nor ‘Israel’ existed at that time – it was a mode of speech concerning the people of Israel; Deut 32:8-9; c.f., Exodus 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Deut 14:2). The glaring implication is that not a single disobedient people group in those days had that special relationship with the Creator. Although Babel triggered these events, this outcome was in the foreknowledge of the omniscient God, for within the space of time, in the succeeding narrative, He called out a people for Himself through Abram (Gen 12). Later God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which meant ‘the father of a multitude of nations,’ where he was the progenitor of these new nations, both in a physical sense, and spiritually as well (viz., Gen 12-17; c.f., Rom 4:13-25). Nevertheless, the Tower of Babel framed the ongoing narrative of the Old Testament, presenting the milieu that led to a further separation of the land much later on in the Promised Land, for the tribes of Israel (Deut 32:9).
The Deuteronomy passage further elucidated the confluence of spiritual forces ascribed to the nations that were newly created following the diaspora from the Tower of Babel. The Hebrew bene ‘elohim from the Qumran fragment and the Septuagint, is rendered ‘the sons of God’ (translated ‘the sons of Israel’ in some versions). These semi-divine heavenly beings serve as Yahweh’s agents of providence on earth (c.f., Deut 4:19; Job 38:7; Ps 89:6-7); accordingly, God divided the ‘sons of man’ into nations, and then apportioned them to the ‘sons of God,’ to be their patrons and protectors on His behalf. Israel, on the other hand, is to relate only to Yahweh (c.f., Deut 17:3; Deut 29:26). Although Scripture did not specify the particular identity and fraternity of these spiritual beings that lorded over the nations, their common hostility towards God remains questionable. Apparently, some did become malevolent (Ps 82:5-6; Deut 32:17; c.f., Dan 10:13, 20, 21; Dan 12:1). Nevertheless, God did not totally condemn the people of those disparate nations, but made a way for them to repent and return to the divine fold (c.f., Acts 17:24-28).
The Deuteronomic theological worldview of the nations challenges our contemporary sensitivities, where the potential influence of these spiritual entities, whether beneficial or malignant, no doubt did impact the course of human history, and would continue to do so. The Apostles Paul and Peter were cognisant of their existential reality, as their Epistles instructed the churches to be spiritually discerning of other-worldly principalities and powers, thrones and dominions, and to be prepared in battling with them (Eph 2:2; Eph 3:10; Eph 6:12; Col 1:16; Col 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22). The significance of the Babel incident was the assignation of semi-divine entities on an earthly geographical scale, that laid the foundation for spiritual confrontation with God and man; we do need Godly discernment and wisdom as we seek to intercede for the nations of our world.